14edo: when seven notes are not enough

What is 14edo? Western music is based on a seven-note octave. The eighth note is the note where the next octave begins. In between there are five “half-tones”. In fact twelve tones.


Physically speaking, a note one octave higher is a sound wave that is twice as short. So a tone of 300 Hz (vibrations per second) sounds an octave higher than a tone of 150 Hz.

The 'primal scale' is the pentatonic scale. This occurs all over the world. There are minor and major octaves.


However, this is just a small selection of the enormous choice we have in alternative scales. Because, why not, for example, a note between C and C# (cis)? Or a scale with 14 (14edo) or 20 (20edo) notes?

A standard keyboard is not suitable for playing these compositions. The mathematician and composer Elaine Walker therefore developed keyboards with different pitch distances.

Elaine Walker with one of her vertical keyboards. This allows her to explore 14edo and other scales. Source: crop from ziaspace.com

The core of creativity is to see “buttons” with which you can change things. Such as the self-evidence, with which we start from the western octave. Walker turned the previously unthinkable knob. Namely the button, how we divide an octave into pieces. With this discovery, Walker opened up a world of new, groundbreaking music.

Below is a piece by the composer, based on an octave of 14 notes.

Elaine Walker had been locked up at home because of the Covid-19 epidemic. A disaster for many, but an opportunity for Walker to finally be able to work calmly. She therefore indulged herself in exotic music that, unlike atonal music, has mathematical regularity. That is why it sounds quite pleasant to the ears.

This 14edo music is slightly more cheerful.

Which of course raises questions. Like, can we teach humans to enjoy alternative tonal scales? And also, what kind of music would other animals like? Or aliens? And also, how does music interact with our brain?

More remarkable compositions on her website ZIAspace.

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